Sunday, April 20, 2014
OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The town's public works director, who has been on administrative leave since late last year, has been fired.
Bill Robertson received a notice from Town Manager Mark Pearson on Feb. 1 saying his contract would not be renewed. Robertson's last day of employment will be April 5, the termination letter says.
He is appealing his dismissal.
The issue will be discussed Tuesday during a closed-door meeting of the Town Council, according to Robertson's attorney.
Robertson has been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 21 but town officials won't say why. Robertson said Friday that he doesn't know whether he remains on leave or will return to work before his contract ends in April.
Neal Weinstein, the Old Orchard Beach attorney who is representing Robertson, said his client was "shocked" to receive the termination letter.
"Bill just wants to do his job," Weinstein said.
Robertson, 66, said he expected to work in Old Orchard Beach for another two to five years before retiring. He became public works director four years ago.
In the letter, Pearson cites five reasons for not renewing Robertson's contract:
• Public expressions of animosity toward Pearson.
• Failure to modify his "unprofessional" management style.
• Failure to provide accurate information to the town manager and human resources director.
• Failure to adequately oversee public works contracts and expenditures.
• Failure to complete timely personnel performance reviews and to attend a mandatory training session.
Pearson did not return phone calls seeking comment on the letter.
In December, Robertson sent an email to Town Council Chairwoman Sharri MacDonald outlining complaints he had about Pearson.
The Portland Press Herald obtained the email through a public records request.
In the email, Robertson said Pearson's past actions toward him were "threatening, bullying and stalking in my mind."
He alleged that Pearson repeatedly drove past the public works department and looked in Robertson's office windows.
Robertson also said Pearson made comments about Robertson's hearing disability at least six times, including in front of public works employees and a resident.
In an interview Friday, Robertson said his issues with Pearson date back to last summer and came to a head in December, when Robertson missed a training session.
Robertson said he didn't go to the training because he was dealing with a trash truck that had leaked diesel fuel through a neighborhood.
"The town manager called me screaming," he said. "He drove by (public works) later that afternoon. That's kind of like stalking, and that made me a little bit nervous."
Pearson accused Robertson of threatening to shoot him, according to Robertson.
Robertson denied making a threat and said Maine State Police looked into the issue, but nothing came of it.
Pearson hired a private investigator, and Robertson and Weinstein met with the investigator on Jan. 30.
Glenn Israel, an attorney from Bernstein Shur who represents the town, said he is not authorized to release the report.
MacDonald, the council chairwoman, said she could not release it because it deals with a personnel matter.
Last week, Robertson filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission because Pearson repeatedly made fun of Robertson's hearing disability, Weinstein said.
The commission cannot confirm that a complaint has been filed. Information becomes public only after a case is closed or an investigative report is issued.
There is no closed case or investigative report connected to Robertson or Pearson, according to the commission.
MacDonald said she is "very, very concerned" about Robertson's termination.
The council was not informed that Robertson was going to be put on administrative leave, she said.
"This has all come out of left field. The council has not been informed one iota about anything that was going on," she said. "It's added a lot of stress the town doesn't need."
Pearson came under fire in December from some town councilors, who wanted to fire him after he declined to resign voluntarily.
It's not clear whether the conflict between Pearson and Robertson contributed to the effort to oust Pearson.
Robertson has the right to request that the discussion about this employment be held in public, but said Friday that he will not take that route.
"I'm not the type to put dirty laundry out there. I'd rather get it settled and get out of it," he said.
"It's just blossoming into craziness."
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: